Finished this while recovering from an appendectomy in hospital. This was the first novel by a Japanese author I’d read in English so I was looking to see how well it translated. I found it wooden, simplistic and the plot sloppily developed. It doesn’t take any amount of genius to magic characters out of nowhere simply to get the story to “work” and I found Murakami’s characters, for all their introspection and quizzical soul-searching quite flat.
This was partly my experience in Japan. There, people simply do not have conversations like those in this book. The protagonist is 15 years old and discourses like a philosophy professor from a post-modern American university. People who hardly know each other and pour forth their darkest secrets. My interaction with the many Japanese I’ve come to know very well shows me that this novel is, in fact, pure fantasy, not just in terms of plot (you’d hardly have to struggle to believe that) but in terms of the characters conversations and relationships.
So, putting aside my comments on the reality of the characters and their interactions, I came to realise that the most important thing about this novel is the symbolic imagery. It’s more like a fable than a realistic novel. The storyline was ingeniously woven together, starting, as it does, with two seemingly separate characters whose lives are more than a little interdependent. Overall, the most intriguing thing about this novel is what it is actually about. Is it really a search for identity? And if so, is it resolved? And if it is resolved, is the fact that it’s done in such a (lit.) fantastic way actually spell doom for the rest of us?
Like most things Japanese, there is no answer other than the answer that there is. If that seems weird, then you’ve understood it right. Perhaps the concept of wabi-sabi applies here and one can only know what this is all about by, well, by being one who knows. All in all, on a metaphysical level, it’s a bit of a disappointment without some sort of key to all the metaphors flying around. In the end, you have to make your own meanings of it and, therefore, like most abstract art, it’s entirely what you think it is.
So, I found the novel overall disappointing and unfulfilling. If I wasn’t actually in love with Japan and its culture, I don’t think I would have found it half as interesting as I did. I’m hoping for better as I read more of his stuff in the future.
“So you’re all set for money then?” the boy named Crow asks in his characteristic sluggish voice.
in places where the sun doesn’t reach, moss has wordlessly covered the rocks.
Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.
Asking questions is embarrassing for a moment, but not asking’s embarrassing for a lifetime.
My shadow’s ony half of what it should be.
the police… just gangsters who get paid by the state
You are part of a brand new world
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb
2007 – Apr